The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:9-13, NLT)
John reported that the light, Jesus, was coming into the world. Then, in seeming disbelief, he wrote of three responses to the light.
First, he was unrecognized by the very world he created. Recently I was in my hometown to conduct some business on behalf of my mother. We drove by my old high school on the way out of town and decided to stop for lunch. We stopped at one of those country buffets where the food and calories are stacked to the ceiling. Because of my mother’s mobility challenges, the server seated us across from the serving line. While we ate I saw two of my high school classmates walk in together to eat. Both of them looked directly at me and turned away, clearly not recognizing who I was. As I finished my meal I picked up the check and walked to the register and paid. I then walked over to their table, pulled out a chair, sat, and began a conversation as though we saw each other on a daily basis.
They clearly felt awkward, but were polite. I asked about their siblings, how things were, and so forth. By this time they knew they should know me but still couldn’t quite place me. Then one of them, Jimmy, looked up from his plate and said, “Deatrick?” We had a good laugh.
John wasn’t laughing. He could not believe the very world that Jesus created (John 1:3) didn’t have a clue who he was. But it gets worse before it gets better.
He was rejected by his own. If the Bible says nothing else, it is profoundly clear that Jesus was sent to the Israelite people first. Paul confirms this in Romans 1:16, citing that the gospel of Christ came “to the Jew first, then the Gentile.” Yet those who should have been first to receive him rejected him in the face of countless fulfillments of prophesies, miracles, and other forms of hard evidence.
John is bewildered by both of these first two responses, but his tone lifts as he shares the third. Jesus was received by all who accepted and believed. It is those who accepted and believed who actually received the true light that was coming into the world. John would later quote these words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Not much has changed in the last two thousand years. There are still those who don’t recognize Jesus, and many more who openly reject him. But the gospel is still the power of God to all who believe, whether they be Jew or Gentile, and those who receive him can walk in the same light and find life.